It was the middle of summer.  I drove out to the countryside to meet a dear friend at her home. Our conversation began spilling out at the breakfast table and continued as we walked upstairs. There was much to catch up on.

She and her family had moved back from being out of state for several years. I listened closely as she recounted her struggle returning to the same area she had lived before.

I’m in a familiar place, living in the same general area as before … but I’m different. I’ve changed.

When my friend moved back to her previous home, the full picture still wasn’t clear. Uncertainty loomed over the ministry responsibilities she would take on, the workplace and hobbies she’d return to, even the relationships that would develop or be renewed …

but I knew I couldn’t walk forward in the same way I did before, she told me. She may be living in the same physical location, but the Lord’s purposes for her and her family were different this time around.

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Now over a year later, her words and their truth still resonate with me.

As we grow up in years and in the Lord, we anticipate new seasons, new circumstances, in which we can learn and grow. But sometimes, to our surprise (and perhaps dismay), we circle back to a place that rings with familiarity. It can be easy to respond with indignation when the Lord places us back in an environment we’ve already visited. “Lord, I’ve been here before … why are we back again?” We’re certain we’ve learned “the lesson” of that season and are ready to move on (to greater things).

In a familiar environment with people we know well, it can be tempting to rush through our days, return to the rhythms we’re used to, or just go through the motions in a way. Frustration, impatience arise because our circumstances are repetitive. We’re ready to be done and move on to the next thing.

For me, the land of familiarity looks like the brick home I grew up in. It looks like the bedroom I spent my teenage years in. Like my friend, home was a return trip.  The summer following my sophomore year of college, I felt the Lord nudging me to remain at home to help care for father, whose health was declining. I was preparing to work at a summer camp, but I couldn’t deny the Lord’s voice calling me to stay home.

The next year, I made plans to complete my internship during the summer months, but again, felt the Lord leading me to help out at home. {Let me just say that while the Lord closed doors for a summer internship, He brought an amazing internship my way that allowed me to stay home and grow in beautiful ways. It was a gift beyond my expectations.}

I knew there was purpose, but I still wondered, “What new thing are You trying to teach me, Lord?” Was there some truth I hadn’t quite grasped last summer that needed to be revealed to me again? I wrestled and wondered … had I missed something? Why was I back here again?

As the summer days rolled by, the paradoxical truth became clear.

In a setting thoroughly familiar to me, Christ was changing me.

While I was on the lookout for a spiritual truth to hold on to – “oh, this is what You want to teach me, Lord” – He was revealing His unchanging self and changing me in the process. 

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Today, I still live in the brick home I grew up in, caregiving for my dad.

My world is riddled with familiarity; but these walls don’t simply hold childhood memories and nostalgia. The Lord is invading the familiar corners of my life and inviting me to walk with Him as He makes all things new, as He makes me new.


As I continue living in a familiar land, I know I’m not the same person I was that first summer I returned home.

In this familiar physical location, I’ve changed. And like my friend, I know I cannot walk forward in the same way I have before.

The Lord’s goodness has unfolded before me as I learn to love, forgive, practice patience, and extend grace in greater measures than before.

His grace fills the stale spaces. His joy erupts in unexpected places. He uncovers beauty with each new day. The Unchanging One goes before me and calls me to be faithful in the familiar. 

 

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